From a Corona with a wedge of lime to a minty mojito, summer’s best drinks have always been light, fizzy, or fruity. But there’s something new under the (blazing) sun this season. If gin and tonic used to be the official drink of summer, it may have been knocked off its throne. Vodka-based drinks are what’s hot now.
Tangerine TangoRusty Rudder’s bar manager, Matt Roper, says the restaurant’s Skinny Girl drinks are likely to be their most popular libations this summer, particularly the Tangerine Tango. This cool, refreshing and sexy cocktail mixes Skinny Girl tangerine vodka, a splash of sugar-free Red Bull and soda water, and comes in at a guilt-free 76 calories. Go ahead and count the slice of orange that garnishes it as a fruit serving. Skinny Girl cocktails and wines sell for $7, and they’re on special for $6 each Thursday. The low-cal wines include a California red, California white, Moscato, and Sangria.
Island WaterNorth Harbor Club has something refreshing stirred up for the summer. Or more accurately, they’re infusing the summer with deliciousness. Co-manager Todd Offchiss says the most exciting drink they’re doing this season is Island Water ($11). But this “water” has a kick. It combines fresh pineapple-infused vodka—made in house—with Malibu rum, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and a house-made simple syrup. The refreshing elixir is citrusy with a hint of coconut.
The Big SexyAt Epic Chophouse, bartender Pam Fetter is mixing up a drink that’s already earned a hot nickname. She calls her original creation a Bing martini ($8.95), but some customers call it “The Big Sexy.” Of course, it starts with vodka. Fetter mixes Absolut acai vodka with Bing cherry juice for a drink she calls “fruity, sweet, and refreshing.” She says Absolut reps asked for the recipe, but she won’t divulge it. “It’s got such visual appeal,” Fetter enthuses. “It’s layered from light pink at the top to dark red at the bottom. It’s picture-perfect.”
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The CucumberBrian Lorusso of Dressler’s says he likes to keep things simple. His uncomplicated liquid ode to summer is simply named “Cucumber.” He mixes Rain Organics Cucumber Lime vodka with all-natural lemonade for a drink that refreshes. Lorusso serves it in a martini glass for purists. Want it on the rocks? He’ll be glad to oblige. If a luxury spa had a flavor, this might be it. The Cucumber sells for $12.
Not a vodka fan? Try this fun and fizzy alternativeFrizzanteSummer doesn’t have to be all about vodka drinks. Val Panizzut, co-owner of Prickly Pear, thinks the white wine blend from Argentina’s New Age winery ($6 per glass and $22 per bottle) is going to be all the rage. Argentines call it “frizzante” (it’s got a champagne-like effervescence), and it’s a blend of Torrentes and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. “It’s sweet at first—like a dessert wine,” says Panizzut. “But squeeze a lime into it, and the character totally changes.” Prickly Pear will serve it “straight up” or you can order it over ice as a spritzer. Panizzut calls it the “perfect complement to spicy food—a nice counterbalance to Prickly Pear’s modern Mexican cuisine."
RecipesTangerine tango Courtesy of Rusty Rudder1 1/2 ounces SkinnyGirl Tangerine VodkaSplash of sugar free RedbullFill with soda and shakeServe
The CucumberCourtesy of Dressler’s3 ounces Rain Organics Cucumber Lime vodka1/2 ounce of lemonade 1/2 ounce of lemon-lime soda Shake in a cocktail shaker with ice Garnish with slice cucumberServe
Island WaterCourtesy of North Harbor Club1 1/4 ounces house-infused pineapple vodka1 1/4 ounces Malibu Rum1/2 cup fresh lime juice 1 ounce simple syrupMix and serve
DetailsThe Rusty Rudder20210 Henderson Road, Cornelius www.therustyrudder.net
North Harbor Club100 N. Harbor Place, Davidsonwww.northharborclub.com/
Epic Chophouse104 S. Main St., Mooresville www.epicchophouse.comDressler’s Birkdale Village, 8630 Lindholm Drive, Huntersvillewww.dresslersrestaurant.com
Prickly Pear637 Williamson Road, Mooresvillewww.pricklypear.net